In his book ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound comments, “When you start searching for ‘pure elements’ in literature, you will find that literature has been created by the following classes of persons”:
(1) Inventors. [Writers] who found a new process, or whose extant work gives us the first known example of a process
(2) The masters. [Writers] who combined a number of such processes, and who used them as well or better than the inventors.
(3) The diluters. [Writers] who came after the first two kinds of writer, and couldn’t do the job quite as well.
(4) Good writers without salient qualities. [Writers] who are fortunate enough to be born when the literature of a given country is in good working order, or when some particular branch of writing is ‘healthy’.
(5) Writers of belles-lettres. That is, [writers] who didn’t really invent anything, but who specialized in some particular part of writing, who couldn’t be considered as [either] ‘great’…or as authors who were trying to give a complete presentation of life, or of their epoch.
Ezra Pound’s, 200-page ABC of Reading (copyright 1934 by Ezra Pound) is essentially a critical analysis of significant writers and their works, ranging from the ancient classics to the moderns. Pound explains his view of those elements or characteristics that constitute high quality in writing. The edition quoted from in this post was published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart Ltd, and was first published in 1960 as New Directions Paperbook No 89.
In an introductory page titled How to Study Poetry, Pound says, “The author…hopes to produce a text-book that can also be read ‘for pleasure as well as profit’ by those no longer in school; by those who have not been to school; or by those who in their college days suffered those things which most of my own generation suffered.”